Friday, April 16, 2010


This cheat sheet presents a checklist for reviewing critical logs when responding to a security incident. It can also be used for routine log review. To download it, click here:

General Approach
  • Identify which log sources and automated tools you can use during the analysis.
  • Copy log records to a single location where you will be able to review them.
  • Minimize “noise” by removing routine, repetitive log entries from view after confirming that they are benign.
  • Determine whether you can rely on logs’ time stamps; consider time zone differences.
  • Focus on recent changes, failures, errors, status changes, access and administration events, and other events unusual for your environment.
  • Go backwards in time from now to reconstruct actions after and before the incident.
  • Correlate activities across different logs to get a comprehensive picture.
  • Develop theories about what occurred; explore logs to confirm or disprove them.

Typical Log Locations
  • Linux OS and core applications: /var/log
  • Windows OS and core applications: Windows Event Log (Security, System, Application)
  • Network devices: usually logged via Syslog; some use proprietary locations and formats.
What to Look for on Linux
  • Successful user login- “Accepted password”, “Accepted publickey”, "session opened”
  • Failed user login- “authentication failure”, “failed password”
  • User log-off- “session closed”
  • User account change or deletion- “password changed”, “new user”, “delete user”
  • Sudo actions- “sudo: … COMMAND=…”, “FAILED su”
  • Service failure- “failed” or “failure”
What to Look for on Windows
Event IDs are listed below for Windows 2000/XP. For Vista/7 security event ID, add 4096 to the event ID.Most of the events below are in the Security log; many are only logged on the domain controller.
  • User logon/logoff events -Successful logon 528, 540; failed logon 529-537, 539; logoff 538, 551, etc
  • User account changes- Created 624; enabled 626; changed 642; disabled 629; deleted 630
  • Password changes- To self: 628; to others: 627
  • Service started or stopped- 7035, 7036, etc.
  • Object access denied (if auditing enabled)- 560, 567, etc
What to Look for on Network Devices
Look at both inbound and outbound activities. Examples below show log excerpts from Cisco ASA logs; other devices have similar functionality.
  • Traffic allowed on firewall- “Built … connection”, “access-list … permitted”
  • Traffic blocked on firewall- “access-list … denied”, “deny inbound”; “Deny … by”
  • Bytes transferred (large files?)- “Teardown TCP connection … duration … bytes …”
  • Bandwidth and protocol usage- “limit … exceeded”, “CPU utilization”
  • Detected attack activity- “attack from”
  • User account changes- “user added”, “user deleted”, “User priv level changed”
  • Administrator access- “AAA user …”, “User … locked out”, “login failed”
What to Look for on Web Servers
  • Excessive access attempts to non-existent files
  • Code (SQL, HTML) seen as part of the URL
  • Access to extensions you have not implemented
  • Web service stopped/started/failed messages
  • Access to “risky” pages that accept user input
  • Look at logs on all servers in the load balancer pool
  • Error code 200 on files that are not yours
  • Failed user authentication- Error code 401, 403
  • Invalid request- Error code 400
  • Internal server error- Error code 500 
Other Resources


Anonymous said...

peh mmg menbantu..for new SA

thank en.izhar

John said...

Hi John,

Nice post - certainly helpful for folks - thanks!

I'm a Windows Security Analyst, and I occassionally blog on Active Directory Security, and I just wanted to mention that in addition, it would also be helpful to consider looking out for specific security events on Active Directory domain controllers, as they certianly can be indicative of an attack in progress as well.